San Antonio and Texas Hill Country Christmas Parades and Festivals
San Antonio River Walk Lighting Ceremony
On the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving every year at 7 pm, a switch activates the 122,000 lights along the San Antonio River Walk. These lights make the perennially gorgeous River Walk even more magical every evening through January 1st. This Lighting Ceremony launches the Paseo Del Rio Holiday Festivities.
Ford Holiday River Parade
Stick around and enjoy the Holiday River Parade with the 150,000 spectators that line up along the River Walk Parade route to enjoy the barge floats graced by local celebrities, bands, and participants in spectacular costumes. A Christmas parade where the floats actually float! Limited reserved seating is available. Not big on crowds? Enjoy the festivities from home on the live television broadcast.
River Walk Boat Caroling and Fiesta de la Luminarias
Beginning after Thanksgiving and going through mid-December, enjoy Christmas Carols along the River Walk during the Ford Holiday Boat Caroling. Over 185 local school, church, business, and civic groups will rotate to sing carols from the river barges.
Embrace tradition in early December. The River Walk will be lined with 6,000 luminarias. Luminarias are sand-filled paper bags with candles. The Fiesta de la Luminarias on the River Walk path is symbolic of the centuries-old tradition of “lighting the way” for the Holy Family. It begins at dusk on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings.
Visit the official San Antonio River Walk website for dates and contact information.
Wassailfest in New Braunfels
Hands down, my favorite holiday festival is Wassailfest. I’ve gone to this event most years that I’ve lived in Texas. Each December, Wassailfest is held the first Thursday of the month beginning at 6 pm in historic downtown New Braunfels. The downtown shops are open, and the shopkeepers serve their wassail, competing for votes for which is the best.
Wassail is a fruit-juice-based, spiced punch, served warm. Some are “leaded,” but most are non-alcoholic. Holiday revelers can enjoy browsing the shops and sampling the hot, fruity, spiced wassail. Be sure and buy your commemorative wassail mug, complete with a cord for wearing around your neck, just like the German wine festivals.
The mood is festive, and the town square is nicely decorated. I especially love the draping of vertical lines of white lights covering the courthouse. At the other end of Main Street, is the “Christmas House,” which is always festively decorated.
Chef Paul Prudhomme How to Make Wassail
Wassailfest Food and Entertainment
Sometimes there is live music at Wassailfest. One year there was a great band across from the Christmas House that played classic 70s Rock. My favorite live music performance was the bagpipers. I was fascinated by the drummers with their twirling drumsticks.
Wassailfest always has lots of food booths, which are mostly near the gazebo, but I suppose they still never have enough, because the lines are always long. I go early and have dinner each year at the Huisache Grill, one of my favorite restaurants, which is built in a renovated old train station near the fire station. They have a diverse menu and are particularly known for their Chicken Tortilla Soup and great wine list. I've tried multiple menu staples, like the penne pasta with shrimp, chicken-fried steak, stuffed chicken breast, and salad trio. They also have rotating specials. My brother usually gets steak, which is always good.
Personal Video Wassailfest Entertainment
Sights & Sounds of Christmas in San Marcos
Each year, San Marcos Texas has the Sights & Sounds of Christmas festival the first Thursday through Saturday of December. In 2010, they expanded to include Wednesday, with Santa arriving by helicopter at 6 pm. Each subsequent night, Santa will arrive at 6 with pomp and circumstance—a motorcycle parade, fire engine, or classic car parade.
The Sights & Sounds festival has promised an expanded, larger-than-ever carnival. Families can also enjoy the toy train exhibit and the living nativity exhibit in Lil’ Town of Bethlehem. Browse the marketplace and admire handcrafted items. Thousands of lights create an enchanted atmosphere.
One of the guilty pleasures of festivals is the food. It may vary from year to year, but you can usually count on smoked turkey legs, corn on the cob, and funnel cake. My favorite is the “campfire biscuits,” cooked in a wrought iron Dutch oven pot over a campfire.
Need something to do during the day while waiting for the evening Sights & Sounds festivities? Some years I brave the crowds and do a little holiday shopping at the Premium Outlets and Tanger Outlets near San Marcos on I-35.
Dickens on Main in Boerne, Texas
Love the theater? All of Main Street becomes the stage for two weekends during the holiday season in Boerne, Texas. Thanksgiving weekend, Boerne celebrates Dickens on Main. They promise plenty of twinkling lights to transform their historic downtown area. Did I mention the snow? There will be snow on Main Street, ice sculptures, and a snow slide. Santa will be visiting. Enjoy a horse carriage ride and theatrical and musical performances. There are usually multiple kid-centric activities like a petting zoo and crafts.
Check the Dickens on Main website for specific dates and events, as events may vary from year to year.
Boerne Weihnachts Parade
Another popular holiday event in Boerne is the annual Weihnachts, or “Christmas” Parade, which has been held since 1986. In previous years, Dickens on Main was held Thanksgiving weekend, and the following weekend, with the parade being part of the festivities. Dickens now is only one weekend, and the parade a separate event. The two-hour parade begins at 6 pm on the first Saturday in December. Have you ever been to an evening Christmas parade?! All floats feature Christmas lights, therefore the evening start.
Before the parade, enjoy shopping and take part in the Stocking Stroll. Buy your stocking from one of the four locations. Collect stocking stuffers from 10 of the 30 possible stores and get entered for a grand prize drawing.
Previous years featured a Holiday Pet Parade, a poster contest, and a gingerbread house decorating contest. Check the Weihnachts Parade event page for the schedule of events.
Hill Country Christmas Parades and Festivals
Sights & Sounds of Christmas, San Marcos, Texas
Wassailfest, New Braunfels, TX
Dickens on Main, Boerne, TX
© 2010 rmcrayne